Spark the Arts Grants

Reminder: Please review general grant eligibility and guidelines before proceeding.


The purpose of the Spark the Arts grants is to support arts providers as they reengage with the public through a combination of programming, marketing, rebuilding staff capacity, and facilitating safety protocols. This broad project category replaces Program Support for now and includes two application tracks: audience re-engagement and audience inclusion. Projects of the kind previously supported by the Arts Equity Project Grant and the Military and Veterans Healing Arts Grant categories are welcome within this category.

Watch an overview webinar on the Spark the Arts grant

Application dates

  • Open: January 6, 2023
  • Due: March 1, 2023

Grant amount

  • Range: $3,000 to $30,000

Who may apply

To be eligible for Spark the Arts funding, applicants:

  • Must be a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization 
  • Must have a track record of producing quality programs for at least two years
  • Must have prior-year organizational cash operating expenses of at least $20,000


  • Must apply with a fiscal agent* that meets the above eligibility criteria

Municipalities and universities are also eligible to apply for Spark the Arts grants.  

Designated and provisional county partners who receive the Grassroots Arts Program allocation for their county are not eligible to apply for Spark the Arts project grants. However, these organizations are allowed to serve as a fiscal agent for an applicant who requires that service.

Organizations that received a direct American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) line item in the state budget for general operations are not eligible to apply for Spark the Arts project grants.

Organizations that were granted a two-year Spark the Arts Grant for FY2022-23 through FY2023-24 are not eligible to apply for another Spark the Arts Grant this cycle.

Scope and allowable expenses

The creation and curation of arts activities is fundamental to all arts programs; however, the Spark the Arts category places a special emphasis on strategies to engage audiences and participants in the work. Grant applications will be considered in two tracks based on the applicant’s audience goals: 1) reengagement (bringing audiences back/reimagining engagement with audiences); and 2) inclusion (seeking new audiences/investing in new voices).  

Examples of reengagement projects may include:

  • Artistic programming selected to encourage audiences to reengage
  • Enhanced marketing campaign for the upcoming season
  • Enhanced safety protocols and/or staffing related to audience engagement

Examples of inclusion work projects may include:

  • Projects designed to reach previously under-engaged communities, such as communities of color, disability communities, rural communities, economically disadvantaged communities, and other underserved communities, that include collaborative planning with the community served.
  • Artistic programming that uplifts the work of artists from underserved communities described above.
  • Programs that focus on creative aging, military and veterans, and arts in healthcare environments.

Grant amounts will range from $3,000 to $30,000. Applicants from Tier 2 and Tier 3 counties may apply for up to two-thirds of the overall project expenses and must provide a cash match for the remaining third. Applicants from economically distressed Tier 1 counties are eligible to waive the matching requirement.  

Grant funds may be used for artist fees, marketing, interpretive materials, contractual fees (including contractual personnel), equipment, and other costs specifically related to the project. Applicants may use up to 50 percent of the grant amount for administrative overhead expenses including salaries that are directly related to the project.  

Projects that involve school-age children outside of the classroom can apply for Spark the Arts grant funds; however, projects that take place as part of the school-day experience should refer to Arts in Education grant guidelines.

Project period

The project period for funding is July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024.

How we make funding decisions

Advisory panels will review applications using the following evaluation criteria:

  • Artistic and cultural value of the program;
  • Benefit of the program for the audience, participants, and broader community and relevance to applicant’s audience engagement goals;
  • Involvement of artists and representative community partners, as appropriate to project themes and content;
  • Feasibility of project and organizational capacity to implement program.

Application information

Submit your application through the GO Smart grant portal. New users to the grant portal will need to create a profile before applying for the Spark the Arts grant.

The following questions and documents will be required for the application. Reach out to your staff contact for questions or application assistance.

Profile questions

In addition to contact information, you will be asked to submit your organization’s mission statement, an organizational history, and both an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number.

Application narrative

  1. Identify the primary engagement goal for your project: 1) reengagement (bringing audiences back/reimagining engagement with audiences); and 2) inclusion (seeking new audiences/investing in new voices).  
  2. Provide an overview of the project.  Include details about the scope of the work and the anticipated dates and locations where the program(s) will take place.  Specifically, how will you use Spark the Arts grant money?
  3. Upload a timeline for the project.  Include significant planning activities as well as programmatic activities. (Note: the project period for this award ends on June 30, 2024.)
  4. Provide information about the intended audience/participants for the project and describe the strategies you will use to engage those people in a meaningful way (enhanced marketing, community partnerships, education and outreach, etc.).
  5. Who are the key people who will implement the project?  Provide names and general responsibilities as well as any connections they have to intended audiences.  Include details about any artists involved in the project.  Describe how artists will be supported through payment of fees, services, and other appropriate benefits.
  6. Describe your planning process for the project and indicate how artists and key community partners are or will be involved in audience and program development.  Summarize how you will raise matching funds and your progress so far.  What comparable projects have you successfully produced in the past?
  7. Explain how you will measure the project’s impact in terms of creative goals, audience engagement, community and economic benefit, and other tangible and intangible tracking methods you use.  Provide details about your evaluation methodologies and how you use the information you've gathered.
  8. Upload letters of support from key partners representing the community or audience you will serve.  NOTE:  Other materials including business and marketing plans, strategic plans, reviews of past programs, or brochures may be included but are not required.

Additionally, you will be required to submit an itemized project budget and artist work samples that demonstrate the proficiency of the artist(s) involved in the project.

*Fiscal agency for Spark the Arts Grants

If an applicant based in North Carolina does not meet the following criteria, they may use a fiscal agent for the Spark the Arts grant category:

  • North Carolina-based nonprofit 501(c)3 organization 
  • Track record of producing quality programs for at least two years
  • Prior-year organizational cash operating expenses of at least $20,000

North Carolina Arts Council's fiscal agency policy for the Spark the Arts grant category

Fiscal agents must meet the aforementioned eligibility criteria and must be willing to accept legal and fiduciary responsibility for the grant funding if awarded. Fiscal agents must be in good standing with the state of North Carolina. While fiscal agents can charge a service fee up to 10% of the grant amount if they wish, the management of the Spark the Arts project is the responsibility of the applicant who will conduct the project. The Arts Council allows fiscal agents to be used if the following terms are in place:

  • A co-signed agreement between the fiscal agent and the applicant must exist and include provisions for funds distribution, rate of a service fee if charged (if applicable), and terms of resolution if needed. View an example of a fiscal agent agreement.
  • If grant funds are awarded, both the fiscal agent and the grantee will sign the grant award contract and submit contracting paperwork. This includes a notarized “No Overdue Taxes” form. Both entities must have an EIN and UEI before the grant check can be cut. The fiscal agent and the applicant will both be required to sign off on the final report at the end of the project period.
  • The grant check is sent to the fiscal agent, and the funds are dispersed for the payment of the project as outlined in the fiscal agency agreement. Please note that any payments from the fiscal agent to individuals or other non-501(c)3 entities are taxable income.
  • Fiscal agents do not have creative authority over the funded projects; the ultimate management of the Spark the Arts project is the responsibility of the grantee. A fiscal agent is not a co-producer of the project and should not list the project on their website as part of their programmatic offerings. However, they can list the fiscal agent service itself as part of their scope of work.
  • A grantee cannot “swap” fiscal agents once the grant contracts are signed by all parties. If a fiscal agency agreement is terminated, the terms and conditions of the grants contract with the North Carolina Arts Council is also terminated.

Organizations applying directly to the Spark the Arts category cannot act as a fiscal agent for another applicant. Organizations that receive their county’s Grassroots Arts Program allocation are allowed to serve as a fiscal agent for Spark the Arts applicants. Organizations are allowed to provide fiscal agency for up to three applicants per granting cycle/fiscal year.  

Staff contact

Dara Silver 
Senior Program Director  
(919) 814-6531 
Email Dara about about visual arts, craft, and film

Jamie Katz Court 
Music and Dance Director  
(919) 814-6502 
Email Jamie about music, dance, and multi-disciplinary presenting

Khalisa Thompson
Theater and Literature Director  
(919) 814-6512 
Email Khalisa about theater and literature

Arts in Education Director 
(919) 814-6504 
Email Vicki Vitiello about arts in education, arts accessibility, and arts in healthcare

Zoe van Buren 
Folklife Director 
(919) 814-6518 
Email Zoe about folk and traditional arts or community arts

Grant Application Assistance

North Carolina Arts Council staff are here to assist with grant applications. Visit our application assistance page for resources and grants staff contact information. 


For accessibility questions or accommodation requests, please contact the North Carolina Arts Council's Music and Dance Director, Accessibility Coordinator Jamie Katz Court at or (919) 814-6502.